Snooker has long been a male-dominated sport. In the sphere of refereeing that has begun to change, however, with a growing group of female referees taking charge of men’s matches.
Where World Women’s Snooker was founded back in 1981, it is far more recent that women have been officiating high-profile matches in male tournaments.
The top female snooker referees will be familiar to those who frequent snooker live betting pages.
Eva Poskocilova’s interest in snooker came about from watching matches on Eurosport. Poskocilova visited a local club, but opted to try her hand at pool after deciding the snooker table was too big.
Her home country of the Czech Republic also needed some referees at the time – Poskocilova took her examination and then refereed at local tournaments for a couple of years.
By 2010, she was involved with the main tour. In the years since, the Prague native has officiated matches featuring numerous world champions.
One of the most prominent snooker referees in the world, Desislava Bozhilova began following snooker in her hometown of Silven.
Initially interested in pool, Bozhilova was attracted to snooker after seeing matches on television.
At the start of the 2010s, she earned a refereeing qualification and moved to Sofia. A first international event was the 2012 Bulgarian Open, and a first ranking final came in Riga four years later.
Fast forward to 2023, and Bozhilova has a CV few can match, having refereed the 2022 Masters final and featured at multiple World Championships.
Belgian referee Hilde Moens was a regular at European Tour events earlier in her career.
In the last half-decade, Moens has had several appearances at ranking tournaments, including the European Masters in 2017-18.
First refereeing a World Snooker Tour event at the Paul Hunter Classic in 2014, Luise Kraatz had an historic start to her career when she was the referee for a 147 in just her third professional match.
Since then, Kraatz took a break to have her first child and has been involved with plenty of ranking events, including officiating the final of the Paul Hunter Classic in 2018.
On her Twitter account, Kraatz describes herself as a ‘snooker referee, mum and hobby gardener with a Masters degree in international business studies.’
Like many others, Maike Kesseler’s involvement with the sport began as a player. Kesseler’s playing career never took off, however, and she made the move into refereeing in the late 2000s.
Making a name for herself in the Paul Hunter Classic back in 2010, Kesseler was picked up by World Snooker and soon received invitations to referee at other major tournaments.
Snooker officiating is a hobby for Kesseler, according to her Wikipedia page, yet she has had a successful career, taking charge of ranking finals and playing a part at the World Championships.
Warsaw native Malgorzata Kanieska pairs a love of snooker with an interest in Aussie rules football (what a combination that is).
Kanieska began refereeing on the European Tour in 2010, and has experience in the qualifying rounds of ranking events.
The increased snooker coverage on Eurosport was a major contributor to introducing a generation of people across the continent to the sport, including Kanieska. Away from the table, she has studied space engineering.
A project manager and sports journalist as well as a World Snooker referee, Monika Sułkowska does a bit of everything.
The Pole became an international referee in 2013, and was in charge of tournament match for the first time a year later with the Gdynia Open.
Shaun Murphy provided an early career highlight for Sułkowska at that event when he delivered a 147. Her first televised match came in Lisbon later in 2014 prior to involvement in the Home Nations Series and German Masters.
A snooker pioneer, Michaela Tabb has broken barriers for women in the sport. Tabb first oversaw a ranking final event at the Welsh Open in 2007, and her career has gone from strength to strength since then.
Being at the forefront of such change in the sport has come with pressure, plus a profile greater than any other snooker referee.
Tabb took an unusual path to the professional game, breaking the usual selection process. Impressing early on, she was fast-tracked onto the circuit, but suffered a setback with a redundancy.
Tabb was quickly reinstated, however, and eventually refereed the World Championships final in 2009.
Beginning with amateur events in Belarus, Tatiana Woollaston has ascended to feature at the upper levels of the sport.
Alongside her refereeing endeavours, Woollaston also has a job at the head office of Next, which hasn’t proven a distraction from her officiating career.
Woollaston first took charge of a European Tour event in 2010, and soon became a regular on the tour.
In 2015, she was given a televised ranking match for the first time, and five years later, she made her debut at the Crucible.
Another Bulgaria-born referee, Proletina Velichkova got into the sport through the Bulgarian Snooker Referees Association. Velichkova followed in the footsteps of Woollaston, refereeing at European Tour events in Bulgaria, including matches involving Judd Trump and John Higgins.
Surprisingly, Velichkova refereed an exhibition match featuring Ronnie O’Sullivan a matter of months after becoming a referee. She has over 8,000 followers on Instagram and shares a close friendship with fellow referee Desislava Bozhilova.
Famous Female Snooker Referees:
More women are involved with snooker at the highest levels of sports betting than ever before with Michaela Tabb and Desislava Bozhilova leading the way.
Just as the players are not exactly household names for casual snooker fans, the same goes for the referees. So, let’s run through the best female snooker referees.
The queen of the female snooker referees world, Michaela Tabb is widely regarded as the most famous woman in snooker.
After refereeing professionally on the pool circuit, Tabb qualified in 2001 to referee on the World Snooker Tour – becoming the sport’s highest profile female referee.
Tabb officiated on the professional tour for 14 years, becoming the first woman to officiate at a ranking snooker tournament in 2002.
In addition, Tabb became the first women to referee a ranking tournament final five years later as she took charge of the 2007 Welsh Open final.
At the time of writing, Tabb is the only female snooker referee to take charge of the World Snooker Championship final – achieving that feat in 2009 and 2012.
A high-profile female referee for the best part of five years, Tatiana Woollaston started off refereeing amateur events in Belarus in 2008.
In 2010, Woollaston refereed at her first European Tour event before officiating a semi-final at the tournament in Prague.
Now one of the best woman snooker referees, Woollaston is a regular on European Tour and world ranking snooker events.
She officiated on television for the first time at the 2015 Welsh Open and earned a place at the Crucible in 2020, refereeing a World Championship match for the first time.
Woollaston has a degree in economics and is married to professional player Ben Woollaston. With two children, this is a real snooker-mad family!
The first successful Bulgarian referee, Proletina Velichkova began her journey in 2011 after noticing the Bulgarian Snooker Referees Association were looking for officials.
Having first officiated at a European Tour event at the 2012 Bulgarian Open, Velichkova is now one of snooker’s most popular referees.
She took charge of her first televised match in 2013 and has refereed a number of major televised ranking matches, both in Bulgaria and around the world.
As well as being a top female snooker referee, Velichkova has a degree in Scandinavian studies and has discussed the possibility of working in languages.
Velichkova enjoys reading, drawing and has a keen interest in social and sports psychology – which has a positive impact on her role as a snooker official.
Monika Sulkowska started refereeing in 2012 and she has matured into one of the greatest women snooker officials in recent years.
Her first World Snooker competition was the 2014 Gdynia Open and she witnessed history at that tournament as Shaun Murphy scored a perfect 147 break.
Sulkowska has officiated at various events, including the Home Nations series, German Masters and qualifying stages of the World Snooker Championship.
While her woman snooker referee salary is no comparison to Ronnie O’Sullivan net worth figures, Sulowska makes a decent living from the sport.
In addition, she is a freelance sports journalist and book editor. Away from snooker, the Polish official enjoys climbing and travelling the world.
The top female snooker referee right now, Desislava Bozhilova’s journey from the Bulgarian town of Silven to the World Snooker stage is sensational.
Initially a pool player, Bozhilova grew up watching snooker on television and decided to try her hand at becoming an official snooker referee.
Bozhilova has been known to credit Michaele Tabb with eradicating sexism in snooker, heaping praise on the two-time World Championship final referee on more than one occasion.
With the chance to travel the world, Bozhilova loves snooker and the lifestyle – and she could dominate the female snooker referee landscape for years to come.
Bozhilova could be one to referee the World Championship final in the future, such is her standing in the snooker universe.
*Credit for all of the images in this article belongs to AP Photo*